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On the Cusp of Reconsidering SSPA (Sit Still & Pay Attention)

I have been giving some consideration to the efficacy of this blog for some time now. The reasons vary, from my one-time affiliation with a mens’ rights group whose mandate seems to have been hijacked by a version of “father’s rights” that has lost sight of a more measured argument in justice, to my son’s school secretary who denied my request to announce my blog and the creation of a boys’ reading group to other parents.

SSAPA then will take up a more direct critique of those things to which we, as a community, fail to pay attention to…perhaps our own myopia a relative function of our own ADD.

Stay tuned then…more to come…

Perhaps we shall start with the current school teacher’s claims of “injustice”

The Boy Looked Out the Window and They Put Him On Medication

A comic who I recently heard on the CBC made an apt observation:
“ADD used to be called imagination…”

Recent Update on Un-schooling

Unschooling Children: The Elementary School Years.

Most homeschooling/unschooling occurs for families with children in grades K-8, with the largest

segment being middle school (grades 5-8). Here are some ideas about what you can do with your children at home and in your community, as well as support and research for working with your children instead of working on them to help them learn.

On Learning Through Fantasy Play
Related books:

Child’s Work: Taking Children’s Choices Seriously by Nancy Wallace.
How Children Learn (revised edition) by John Holt. Has great chapters on games, play, and fantasy, about how children use play to get into the world, not out of it.
The Self-Respecting Child by Alison Stallibrass. Foreword by John Holt.
Free at Last by Dan Greenberg and Mimsy Sadofsky.
Peter Gray’s Freedom to Learn blog for Psychology Today magazine.
American Journal of Play, Spring 2011. A special edition devoted to children’s free play and edited by Peter Gray.

On Older Readers
Related books:

Educating Children at Home by Dr. Alan Thomas.
How Children Learn at Home by Dr. Alan Thomas and Helen Pattison.
Better Late Than Early, Raymond and Dorothy Moore.
Reading Without Nonsense, by Frank Smith.
Joining the Literacy Club by Frank Smith.

On Responding to Children’s Thoughts and Ideas: Interview with philosopher Gareth Matthews
Related books:

Philosophy and the Young Child by Gareth Matthews.
The First Honest Book About Lies by Jodie Kithcner.
Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn.

On Math
Related books:

Unschooling Math edited by Susannah Sheffer.
Anchor Math by Leslie Hart.
Arithmetic Made Simple by Robert Belge.
Elementary Algebra by Harold Jacobs.
The I Hate Math Book by Linda Alison.
Math by Kids by Susan Richman.
The Math Kit: A Three-Dimensional Tour Through Mathematics by Ron Van Der Meer & Bob Gardner.
A Mathematical Mystery Tour by Mark Wahl.
Mathematics: A Human Endeavor by Harold Jacobs.

On Testing
Related books:

Insult to Intelligence by Frank Smith.
In Their Own Way by Thomas Armstrong.
National Center for Fair and Open Testing, a great source of information about the serious issues that surround testing.

A Little Plastic: What’s the Harm?

In Boys Adrift, Leonard Sax takes up a discussion of what are termed endocrine disruptors–materials (such as phthalates–you recall the BPA scare) which mimic hormones and feared to have adverse effects on developing children (yes, particularly boys). Largely the concern is that plastics such as BPA (or any plastic for that matter) have estrogenic properties which bring on early puberty in girls and arrest boys’ sexual maturation (including reduced sperm counts while a pregnant mother’s consumption of such chemicals resulted in incomplete masculinization of the child and genital deformities).

Below is a recent post from MedPage Today that reports on this.

It’s in the Can

By: Emily P. Walker  |  December 01, 2011

Like any reader of the news, I take an especially keen interest in a story when a headline seems personally relevant to me. For instance, a story my colleague John Gever wrote the other day, “Canned Soup Delivers High Levels of BPA,” especially piqued my interest for a few reasons.

One: I eat a lot of stuff from cans. Just this week, I’ve already eaten a can of white beans, a can of chickpeas, and a can of pears, and I’ve used canned coconut milk in a recipe. As a vegetarian, beans are part of my diet on a near-daily basis. And I don’t care what cookbooks and online recipes say — dried beans are not an “easy” alternative to canned. Any recipe that involves 24 hours of inactive prep time is not “easy.” It takes planning, and often, I’m throwing recipes together on a whim and didn’t have the foresight to soak a pot of beans overnight. So I reach for the can. I like to think I’m a healthy eater, but I wonder what effect the chemicals in a can of food will have on my body (especially because the canned soup study showed that people who ate a can of soup a day had levels of bisphenol A [BPA] in their urine that were 20 times higher than those who didn’t eat canned soup).

The second reason John’s story was particularly interesting to me is because it’s been fascinating seeing how the science on BPA has accumulated and how government officials’ views on BPA are changing. When I first started at MedPage Today in 2008, the prevailing view of the FDA was that BPA is safe. But then a panel of independent science advisers determined the FDA erred when it made that call. In 2010, the FDA announced it would devote $30 million to research the health effects of BPA exposure.

During the past few years, the research on BPA has shown that the chemical can mimic the action of female reproductive hormones and may be linked to cardiovascular disease, and just a couple of months ago, researchers found that children whose mothers had high urine levels of BPA during pregnancy were more prone to behavioral problems.

The chemical industry maintains that there isn’t sound evidence that small levels of BPA (like those found in food containers, and even paper cash register receipts) have a harmful effect on humans.

Still, limiting my canned food consumption might not be a bad idea. Better start soakin’ some beans.

Globe Article Fails to Answer the Question

The Wednesday, November 30, 2011 Globe published an article by Kate Hammer titled Reading between the Lines on Boys’ Results. Another half-hearted effort to raise concerns regarding the rapidly declining academic performance of our boys. While the article’s title holds out an implicit promise to finally post a decisive critique of our failing education system it again tempers any such expectation by eliding much of the recent literature. Rather than call for explicit reforms and ask the really tough questions about how schools are failing our children (boys particularly)  the article defaults (for the sake of optics and politics of gender I assume) to a discussion of the extent to which girls have made gains in such faculties as science. The fact however (as it is with reading/comprehension) that girls aren’t statistically doing better but rather that boys are doing worse–they are in effect disengaging. WHY?

The exigency of the current state of boys’ academic performance is seen by Wayne Martino, Professor of Education at the University of Western Ontario, as a “misplaced fuss over gender.” He has obviously failed to do his research (this shouldn’t be surprising  given the current state of “scholarship”) making the fatuous claim that “academic achievement is closely linked to socioeconomic status.” Acclaimed psychologist Leonard Sax in Boys Adrift shows that the underachievement of boys and a concomitant over-prescription of ADHD drugs cuts across socioeconomic lines. Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, a developmental psychologist at Temple University, is quite unequivocal regarding the bias against boys, “The stakes are too high to worry about political correctness.”

Martino concludes (as does the article almost) with what amounts to a discreditable and provocative claim that “the boys issue is distracting education form bigger problems.” What then are education’s “bigger problems” if not the very failure of pedagogy to engage all children.

In a comprehensive analyses by one time feminist Peg Tyre, The Trouble With Boys, most educators she says, “don’t consider that they need to fix the environment that these boys are learning in….They’d rather fix [sic] the boy.”

Rather than attend in a meaningful and policy-oriented manner to the alarming change in boys’ achievements we have to custom-fit (with designer drugs if necessary) our children to the classroom–a proscriptive place of sanguine deference to the lotus flower.

Fathers and Sons

I’ve recently joined a group whose mandate is to marshal greater awareness of men’s issues, in part, as one gentleman implied at the meeting last night, “to leave a meaningful and more robust legacy for our sons and children.” I urge anyone who feels that the principle of social justice and equity in a secular society is incontrovertible, to avail yourselves of this site.


The Canadian Association for Equality mandate for its Men’s Issues Awareness (MIA) Campaign:

We recognize the need to build a movement centered on Men’s Issues which, through a broad coalition of groups, will engage in consciousness-raising, public education and efforts to change public policy.

We feel the public must be made aware of the existence and specifics of Men’s Issues and the fact that these issues are not isolated, but rather interconnected and part of a large societal pattern of discrimination, ignorance and harmful public policy that in many ways disadvantages boys and men.  We will engage in critiques of contemporary society as necessary, but our focus shall be on positive activism to advance a healthier society.

Some areas of concern are as follows:

Men’s Health
Family Law/Fathers Rights
Boys Issues (Education, Abuse, etc)
Men and Violence (stranger and domestic)
Crime and Punishment/Legal Biases
The Workplace
The Media
Legal Biases
Academic Misandry
Male Genital Mutilation

ADHD: The Default

I have been reading a number of interesting books (some, you will likely have already availed yourselves of) pertaining to the difficulty boys have attending to their classroom “tasks.” I will list some of them below for your consideration.

When one encounters a student who finds that the order to “sit still and pay attention” is an almost impossible task the immediate “diagnosis” (most often by the teacher) is a convenient default–“He/she is always fidgeting, I think your son/daughter has ADHD.” Rather than pedagogical strategies or the educational system meeting our children’s needs (and they ALL have exceptionalities of one sort or another) the default is therapeutic strategies/interventions (most often pharmacological) in order to “modify” our children–that is, to better fit an educational system that needs reform (another topic) or to help ease the burden of our fatigued teachers (who provide a mere 188 days of instruction per year).

Rather than attention deficit is it not the case that, more accurately, it is an attention difference (see Kenny Handelman’s Attention Difference Disorder). The title of this book however still suggests it is a disorder, if you like, a pathology. I have been giving this much thought and paying very close attention to our own son–my own preference is to call it something like “hyper attention dis-location” which I should like to discuss at greater length in a later post.

For now I want to deliver on my earlier promise and leave you with what I take to be some enlightening reading (your own suggestions are always welcome):

Handelman, Kenny, Attention Difference Disorder: How to Turn Your ADHD Child or Teen’s Differences into Strengths

Sax, Leonard, Boys Adrift

Tyre, Peg, The Trouble With Boys

The hurdles we face were already anticipated by John Holt; the following are considered canonical texts in the field of education:

How Children Fail (1964), How Children Learn (1967), The Underachieving School (1969), Instead of Education (1976) etc.

That is it for now, we face a steep learning curve and I hope you can bear with us while we stumble forward.

Building Community For Our Children

Our intention here is to initially invite comments, concerns, suggestions and/or stories regarding your child’s educational experience (Ontario and beyond). We want to create a support group for parents and children who have found their discussion with educators and schools unsatisfactory.

Links and information to come.

Please stay tuned

Concerned Parents

Welcome to our blog and resource site whose main subject of concern is the education of our children–in particular, though not exclusively, our boys.